Airplane seat design is finally getting some out-of-the-box thinking. I don’t mean flatter lie-flat seats; I mean completely re-imagining coach seats so they are more passenger-friendly, versatile and light-weight. Unfortunately, much of this is speculative thinking, and whether any of these designs will ever come to market remains to be seen. Airlines—the seat customers, ultimately—carefully monitor an important metric: butts in seats. The more seats, the more butts. So airlines eye the bottom line when considering seat innovation, and most of that is about capacity.
Nevertheless, a couple of the designs I’m excited about: the “Morph” seat is constructed of material like the iconic Aeron Chair and can expand or shrink depending on need (next up: buy 1.5 tickets); and this entry in the James Dyson Award competition, the “AirGo” seat, includes a personal overhead bin right above the seat, even the window seat (wouldn’t that be convenient?).
By far the best innovation, though, is JetBlue’s seemingly small but hugely valuable gesture: a seat that includes a cup holder. I’ve wondered for years why this has not been done. I often refrain from buying a coffee before boarding an early morning flight precisely because it will mean putting the drink on the floor before performing the gymnastics of trying to swing my bag above my head. (Doable, but risky and a little icky.) Also, during the flight, I am cramped enough without being forced to keep the tray table down just to hold a beverage. What a luxury to stretch out (I use that term very loosely) with a book or for a mid-beverage nap, with that Diet Coke safely tucked into a holder. JetBlue’s inflight product was indeed in need of a refresh, and this is a particularly welcome innovation. Thanks, JetBlue.